1 Corinthians 1 is a fairly famous passage, and rightly so. There, Paul inveighs against the foolishness and emptiness of seeking power and wisdom apart from God––the very things both Jews and Gentiles were doing. The only true source of power (signs) and wisdom is Jesus, and without seeking Him, one seeks the others in vain.
It seems to me that Paul has the book of Proverbs in mind, especially chapter 1 (and probably chapters 8-9 too, but I’m trying to stick to one piece of paper at a time). Proverbs 1 has many parallels to 1 Corinthians 1, including some language that is expressly used of Jesus in the New Testament (pouring out the Spirit and teaching the Word).
Paul speaks of the knowledge of God and the wisdom of God as “riches” and “treasure” in both 1 Corinthians 1 and Colossians 2. He also equates Jesus with God’s wisdom and knowledge.
True wealth is knowing Jesus.
True knowledge is inseparable from Jesus, who is the Truth (John 14:6).
True wisdom is inseparable from Jesus, for wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD. Knowledge and wisdom are primarily relational, not intellectual. You can be academically brilliant and spiritually stupid, and you can be a school dropout and spiritually brilliant. Jesus is the difference, not degrees.
Chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original books of the Bible. They’re generally helpful as locators (the poor Preacher of Hebrews even says “But someone somewhere…” in Hebrews 2:6), but we can miss connections if we follow them too closely.
Luke put the stories of blind Bartimaeus (not named in Luke but in the other Gospels) and Zacchaeus back-to-back because we’re supposed to see the connections between them.
These two men are both unable to see. They’re both desperate to get to Jesus. They both desperately need Jesus.
These two men are quite different: one is a blind beggar, and the other is a powerful, rich, and corrupt tax collector.
Both leave drastically changed after meeting Jesus.
Give What You Command
John says that the commands of God are not burdensome, but it doesn’t always feel that way.
St. Augustine’s famous line from his Confessions fits well in this passage in 1 Thessalonians: “Lord, give what you command, and command what you will.” In other words, “Lord, as long as you give me the ability to obey, then command whatever you want.”
I’m doing some catch-up reading for the Foundations New Testament plan, and I noticed some connections between Luke 7 and 8.
Luke 7 tells the story of the centurion with the dying servant who begs Jesus for healing. Luke 8 tells the story of Jesus stilling the stormy sea while crossing over with the disciples.
I tried to sketch out the similarities and contrasts between the two events on a single piece of blue-bar paper. The first image is the whole thing (with some comments); the second and third are each the passages from chapter 7 and 8 by themselves.
The centurion in chapter 7 has a good relationship with the Jewish community, and the elders he sends to Jesus plead on his behalf, noting his benevolence and generosity make him worthy of having his request granted. The centurion himself, however, asserts his unworthiness twice. For a man with considerable power, he’s remarkably humble.
He then tells Jesus he understands Jesus has the authority to command healing, just as he commands soldiers and servants. In fact, I believe his last example (“…and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it”) refers to the very servant he wants healed. The one command that cannot be obeyed is, “Be healed.” But if Jesus gives that command, it will be obeyed, he believes.
Jesus is amazed (Greek thaumazo) when He hears this. It’s unusual to find such great faith, even in Israel, where it should be readily found. The centurion had heard about Jesus and believed; “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17 tells us. He hadn’t seen Jesus; he had only heard of him. Yet he believed Jesus could do the one thing he could not, sight unseen. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” Jesus would tell Thomas later (John 20:29).
Contrast that great faith with the lack of it shown by the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in Luke 8. Presumably, the disciples knew at least as much—likely much more—than the centurion about Jesus. Their responses to desperate situations are drastically different.
The centurion humbly and meekly “requests” Jesus’ help (“Lord, don’t trouble yourself”). The disciples, on the other hand, “came and woke Jesus up, saying”—likely screaming—”Master, Master, we’re going to die!”
In both instances, Jesus issues a command that is immediately obeyed. Jesus asks them, “Where is your faith?” The great faith not found in Israel includes not finding it (yet) in the disciples.
The disciples see Jesus command the storm (and be obeyed), and they are amazed (thaumazo, the same word used to describe Jesus in chapter 7). They ask the question, “Who then is this?”, an interesting contrast to the centurion’s simple faith after he “heard about Jesus” and knew enough to believe.
“But say the word,” the centurion says. Better, deeper, he believes. Jesus invites us to hear Him speak in His word and believe Him.